Thursday, January 10, 2019

Tana French, THE WITCH ELM

I will always read anything by Tana French. The emotional tension she creates among her characters, and between the protagonist and the reader, is astonishing. I don't know anyone else who does it as well, for me. But the ending of this fell a bit flat for me--the sudden revelations by the cousins felt a bit unearned; and, frankly, the protagonists final desperate acts felt somewhat implausible. Still, a great read. But it's not going to dislodge French's FAITHFUL PLACE from my favorite top 5 mysteries ever. :)


Such a powerful book. I think the first time I read it I was 15 ... and I'm not sure I understood the nuances and layers and even the language. But this time, my heart just ached ... and that hurricane scene just kills me.


I'd give this 3.5 stars, rounding up for some really beautiful, spare language, which is Penney's strong suit. This novel feels to be an exploration of two landscapes: one geographic (of the arctic in the late 1800s) and one sexual. The arctic plot arc held my interest--partly because I know next to nothing about it. The problem with the exploration of the sexual landscape is there's only so much you can do with a narrative arc about sex. It falls flat, after a while. The tension vanishes; and having the sex scenes become more graphic just doesn't make up for it. The arctic exploration plot, though--and the conniving and competitiveness of the various explorers--was very good. I finished the book, and my heart ached at the end for Flora's loss. However I have to admit, I never quite felt I got inside her feelings, in the same way that I was inside the characters of Penney's first, THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES--which is still one of my fave novels of the past decade, and a book I recommend to anyone who loves good historical fiction.